WATERVILLE — A meeting Tuesday to discuss economic development provided a venue for at least one business owner to vent, saying he felt excluded from events that focus on downtown.

Richard Parkhurst, owner of Railroad Square, told those who attended a workshop hosted by the City Council that a couple of years ago, he was told by an official affiliated with an art walk that his business could not take part because it was not in the downtown district.

Parkhurst said he is concerned about paying taxes to a city that gives money to Waterville Main Street and excludes his neighborhood.

“And I would like that addressed,” he said.

Parkhurst said that he had asked the art walk to include a piece of stained glass on a table at Railroad Square that was worth $250,000 and created by a Boston artist.

“We were flatly rejected,” he said.

Mayor Karen Heck said when she learned of Parkhurst’s concerns, she immediately responded, calling a meeting and looking at ways to include Railroad Square businesses in events and possibly do mutual advertising with them. She said there are also opportunities for people working in the Railroad Square complex to become members of the Board of Directors for Waterville Main Street.

“We’re all in this together,” she said.

Railroad Square, located north of downtown, was developed by Parkhurst 25 years ago when it was just an empty lot.

Heck said she wants to see the city hire an economic development director who would manage such issues so the city is in a position to support all businesses on Main Street, as well as businesses in other areas of the city. A city of Waterville’s size should have an economic development director, she said.

Parkhurst said he did not want to appear bitter; all he wanted was “not to be specifically excluded.” He said Railroad Square has businesses including a quilt shop, a stained glass shop, a restaurant, a shop that makes and repairs violins and another that makes and repairs guitars. The square also has a cinema and medical offices.

“Just don’t exclude us,” Parkhurst said. “Allow us to become part of the community in which we live.”

Heck said she wants to expand the idea of what Waterville Main Street is.

“Maybe not downtown, but what gets promoted, what gets part of an advertising package we might put together,” she said.

The meeting’s purpose was to have economic development organizations report how much money the city gives them annually, and what they do to support Waterville’s growth and development, with the goal of helping to make the city vibrant and prosperous, Heck said.

Darryl Sterling, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, said the city gives the council $30,640 a year. The council works to market the city, including the airport and Airport Industrial Park, and draw commercial businesses to the city, among other things. The council is working toward re-issuance of foreign trade zone status, which will help generate economic development for the region, Sterling said.

“That’s a big project. I’m very excited about it,” he said.

Other organizations represented Tuesday were Waterville Development Corp., Waterville Main Street, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, FirstPark and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments.


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